The Shelburne Artisans Co-Op celebrates 25 years: Artist-owned space welcomes new members to join

Marian Ives at the Shelburne Arts Co-Op, which is celebrating its 25-year anniversary.

Marian Ives at the Shelburne Arts Co-Op, which is celebrating its 25-year anniversary. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Top: The Shelburne Arts Co-Op at 26 Bridge Street is celebrating 25 years of business.

Top: The Shelburne Arts Co-Op at 26 Bridge Street is celebrating 25 years of business.

The Shelburne Arts Co-Op at 26 Bridge Street is celebrating 25 years of business.

The Shelburne Arts Co-Op at 26 Bridge Street is celebrating 25 years of business. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 08-25-2023 11:53 AM

For the past quarter century, artists have been owning where they sell their work right in the heart of the village.

The Shelburne Artisans Co-Op is celebrating its silver anniversary this year, marking the opening of its doors 25 years ago. 

“Looking forward to another 25 years,” Flo Rosenstock, co-op member artist, said. 

Eight founding artists started the Co-Op in 1998 after taking part in various other artist co-ops across the state. Marian Ives, one of the founding members, is the last of the original generation still working at the co-op, but she is joined by 23 other working members and 10 consignors in the shop. 

Ives moved to Hawley from Cambridge around the time she started the co-op and found it lonely working in her studio. Based on her past experience working cooperatively in the Boston area, she and her friends worked with the landlord of the building to start a new space. 

The Olde Shelburne Falls Book Shop was in the storefront for years until it closed in 1998, leaving an empty retail space for the team to take over.

Ives and Rosenstock explained they have made lifelong friends through the co-op where they act as emotional support to one another, as well as collaborate on their artistic endeavors. “Everyone here forms a community,” Ives said. “It is great to be involved.”

Ives has been a metal worker her entire life, beginning when she was 14 after seeing a homemade bracelet that led her to learn the skills. At the shop, she sells all handmade objects ranging in size from multiple-foot-long weathervanes to small ornaments that hang on Christmas trees. All the art she sells depicts animals carved from sheets of metal that she presses with a two-ton kick press. 

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Rosenstock sells felt objects, including sculptures and upcycled clothing. Rosenstock was a potter for 60 years. As she grew older, she had difficulty making larger heavier pieces, so switched mediums and now sells her fiber art in the shop. 

The store functions similarly to how it did when it started, using a jury of members to accept new art to sell in the space. Typical galleries take about 50% of the profits from art sales, explained Ives, but by cutting costs and having the artist own the gallery, 70 to 80% of the money made at the store goes directly back to the working artists (percentage depending on the number of hours worked in the store monthly).

They also host exhibitions monthly. These exhibitions typically alternate from displaying solo shows to group showings centered around a theme. This silver anniversary sparked the theme for this month’s showing where co-op artists will display artwork around the theme of silver. The reception for the show will take place on Sept. 10 during the village’s monthly art walk from 1 to 4 p.m. 

The co-op is looking for new members to join, as some of the senior members leave. They are hoping to recruit potters, woodworkers, and jewelers specializing in silver. They do not have space for artists hoping to display two-dimensional work to join the group. “There is opportunity to be working members or consignors,” Rosenstock said. 

“It was a lot of work to get it going,” Ives said, explaining the group had to meet with lawyers, write bylaws, take care of many moving pieces when it first opened. “It is amazing it is still here.”

Reach Bella Carmela Levavi at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com